“There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.’ The need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.” – Stephen R. Covey
As a math teacher, I am very familiar with the word “congruent.” Most of you reading this may not be math teachers but we can all vaguely recall the term, maybe?! Congruent, when pertaining to math, is when angles of different triangles have the same degree, or two line segments have the same length. It was not until this weekend that I thought of the word in an entirely different light. The person I want to be is now congruent with what I am teaching. The values of respect, uniqueness, gratitude, empathy that I try my best to live by are also the same things I have the privilege of actively teaching. It is harmonious. Stephen Covey was right about personal congruence being fundamental to human fulfillment. It’s synergetic. It is most definitely a “win-win.”
This year is my first year at Indi-ED. Prior to this year I taught at a public middle school. I taught 6th grade math with roughly 130 students in all of my classes combined. My students had a rotation of substitute teachers. They had no structure, no one to rely on. They had given up on caring about math class because they hadn’t been shown that anyone really cared about them. This broke my heart.
I spent most my school year just trying to catch up; I was constantly treading water. I didn’t let the overwhelming stress I felt affect my attitude in my classroom but I couldn’t help but wonder: if I felt so bogged down by all of the ….stuff… mandated by who knows who. Well, how did my students feel? So, I asked them. I wanted to know if they were excited about learning. Did they feel safe in and outside of school? Did they feel happy? Most importantly…did they feel heard? Did they know how much they mattered? The answer was no, over and over again. Here were these brilliant, energetic, amazing kids so full of potential, so valuable and unique. Yet they had no idea and there was very little I could do to help them understand otherwise. I had to teach them statistics, rigorous lessons about mean absolute deviation because it was going to be on a test. Why couldn’t I teach them something that actually mattered?! It didn’t make sense to me, it didn’t add up.
I could not comprehend how our local, state and national education departments could suggest that our students were a priority yet everything else was put ahead of them. Data mattered, standards mattered, school’s performance mattered, profit mattered. Everything mattered more than a single student (and their brilliant ideas) ever did. Why is this still happening, anywhere, to our kids?! I am tearfully grateful that an amazing woman shared this concern and brought her vision to life through building Indi-ED; a school with so many amazing things, one of them being congruence. We say our kids matter the most and we get to show them that they do.
One of the reasons I became a teacher was because I know how much of a difference it makes when even one person believes in you. Last year I believed in my students, I was rooting for them; I just had to do it discretely or in silence.
This year, I get to do it out loud.
I will, of course, teach my students about mean absolute deviation but not until I show them, without ever deviating from congruity, how much they absolutely mean.